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05-15-2010, 03:15 PM   #1
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How do I know if my camera is working properly?

I bought a Super Program a few weeks ago and I haven't been thrilled with the results. Which got me thinking: how do I know that the camera is working right?

I've used about 4 rolls of consumer fuji, 1 roll of Fuji Reala 100, 1 roll of Kodak Portra 160, and 2 rolls of Kodak BW400CN. None of the results have been very good. Mostly the pictures look like they've come from a disposable camera. But I'm using good lenses: FA 31, FA 50, FA 77. These lenses are superior performers on digital, and all full frame compatible. I use aperture priority (A mode on the dial) and I've done many shots indoors and many shots outside in great sunlight. In fact, for the 100 and 160 films I pretty much had to shoot outside. I'm relatively young with good enough vision and coordination, so I think my focus is good enough that I should occasionally get something decent. I'm at a loss.

I'll follow up with posts showing example images. I'm doing them as separate posts because then I'll have the ability to control which images are shown with which text.

05-15-2010, 03:22 PM   #2
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Fuji Reala 100. This cost $8 at Ritz Camera. Wife was unhappy. I reassured her that the guy behind the counter loves this film and he thinks I'll get good results.

I'm including three photos.
The first will be the bare scan from the negative (no color correction, no dust removal, no processing at all besides the resize).
The second is the Costco scanned version. I had a DVD made to see if their scanner was superior to mine.
The third is my scanned version from #1, only processed by me to look better for my eyes.

These shots were outside on a sunny day, but in the shade. I don't remember the camera settings, but probably É5.6 and probably fairly fast (1/1000 or so). I think it should look better.

Any ideas?
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05-15-2010, 03:25 PM   #3
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This is from the same roll of Fuji Reala 100.

First is the bare scan, second is the hand processed version. Neither looks really great to me.
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05-15-2010, 03:25 PM   #4
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Some thoughts,

Test in a VERY controlled environment.
Put it on a tripod. Get a light meter. Get a good contrasty subject.
Meer for lighting conditions and set the camera accordingly. (using constant lighting condition if possible. i.e. not outside were clouds, etc... may change lighting )
Put on tripod and get focus as correct as possible.
Take some photos.
Do the same for another camera.
If photos do not match, there could be something wrong.

Another thought is; how old is the film? If old, has it been kept in a reasonable environment to allow it to work well?

05-15-2010, 03:27 PM   #5
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Here is a shot from an Optio I-10 ISO 80 1/320s É3.5.
This shot's colors are overboard, but I like the image quality better!
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05-15-2010, 03:29 PM   #6
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K-x shot with the 77.

The full size version plays in another league.
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05-15-2010, 03:32 PM   #7
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This is from the Portra 160. I actually like it as a photo but it isn't very sharp. Indoors, probably near 1.8 on the 77.
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05-15-2010, 03:34 PM   #8
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Here's another Portra, also indoors but with a flash. You can see from the depth of field that the aperture was stopped down, probably É5.6 or greater. And it all looks fairly muddy.

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05-15-2010, 03:34 PM   #9
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Hmm, the first images look fine, for the size they are here. It seems sharp enough. Although perhaps not the best background and lighting..

The second set look like the shutter speed was slow and you have a lot of motion blur. The slide behind looks like it is sharper than the child, so I don't believe it is necessarily you or the camera that has a problem. Possible just an issue of paying attention to the settings for the environment at the time?
05-15-2010, 03:41 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by amoringello Quote
Hmm, the first images look fine, for the size they are here. It seems sharp enough. Although perhaps not the best background and lighting..

The second set look like the shutter speed was slow and you have a lot of motion blur. The slide behind looks like it is sharper than the child, so I don't believe it is necessarily you or the camera that has a problem. Possible just an issue of paying attention to the settings for the environment at the time?
Yes, perhaps that wasn't the best sample image. From the full size, by examining the red stitched collar of her shirt you can see that the focal plane goes through the back part of her head. But even there her hair isn't very much sharpóall kinda muddy. The full version shows the slide better, but in my opinion the slide is showing mild bokeh throughout so I think the focal plane is closer to the girl.
05-15-2010, 03:49 PM   #11
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In that case, at least for the second image, it is most certainly motion blur that is an issue. If you think color should be more contrasty, I think maybe the lighting could be too low.

I would recommend setting up a test environment with a test focus chart (or a sheet of newsprint) for checking focus, and maybe a color chart or some bright clothing of various colors to check the color/contrast factor.

But you need to start out with good bright lighting and a good stable camera+tripod and stable subject matter to remove any other factors that could be affecting image quality.

If that looks good, then you can adjust other factors.

The photos form the second camera certainly look better, but the environment is completely different, so with these examples it is difficult to say much about the other camera.

Dunno if any of that was truly the help you were looking for, but hopefully it gives ya a start.
Good luck.
05-16-2010, 05:37 AM   #12
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I don't believe the problem is related to motion blur. These were shot in bright light under conditions where ISO 100 is appropriate and f5.6-f8 still give 1/500 or faster shutter speed. Yes, her fingers are moving really fast and you can see that in the photo, but I think the shutter speed should still be OK for her body. If I shot this with the K-x using the same settings, I think I would have got a much better photo.

The issue is, that given these nearly ideal conditions I can get top results from the K-x and even the Optio I-10. But the results from the film are so-so.

I don't think the film I've selected is bad. I just think that the pictures aren't very sharp and the colors are way off until processed.

So I'm convinced that the digital cameras, under exactly the same conditions, are capable of not merely better photos, but photo quality that is in another class. And I don't think this result is right. So I'm probably doing something wrong. I don't think shutter speed is the issue. I'm asking if there are other mechanical issues that could be the problem. Is there such a thing as a camera that isn't quite right?
05-16-2010, 08:50 AM   #13
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It could be that the shutter and/or light meter needs calibrated. I will say that children are tough subjects for manual focus. Were you using mf on the K-x?
05-16-2010, 10:36 AM   #14
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@Aegon

The easiest thing to do if you suspect that your camera is not working properly is to take it to your friendly local camera repair and have them check it for you. They can quickly evaluate the meter and shutter accuracy and usually will do so for free (at least Mike Knight at Knight Camera Repair in Vancouver will). Don't waste a lot of film and time doing testing on your own. There are several reputable camera repair places in the Portland/Vancouver area.

Looking at your photos, it looks like several are taken in shade. Your film is "daylight" balanced and will shift color toward the blue in the shade. This can be corrected at scan or print time or in PP (if scanned). With practice, you will learn to evaluate how the quality of light affects outcome. To get bright saturated colors, you need good light with a broad spectral composition. Heavy overcast and deep shade can both sap your reds and yellows.

Reviewing your comments, I think I will have to agree with your wife...$8 is too much money by a couple of dollars for Reala.


Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 05-16-2010 at 10:42 AM.
05-16-2010, 10:52 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Aegon Quote
...So I'm convinced that the digital cameras, under exactly the same conditions, are capable of not merely better photos, but photo quality that is in another class...
Your K-X does automatic white balance and is less sensitive to the spectral composition of available light. Depending on subject, it also has the advantage of AF, SR, and ability to shoot at much higher ISO values than your ISO 100 film. Shooting available light hand-held under dim conditions with your K-X at ISO 800 will blow away ANY film camera loaded with ISO 100 under those same conditions.

QuoteOriginally posted by Aegon Quote
... Is there such a thing as a camera that isn't quite right?
Definitely.

Cameras can be damaged by moisture or impact and can also fall out of calibration with time. Get it checked if you have any doubts.

Steve
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